The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Another Brick In The Wall

(I suppose to avoid legal entanglements, that title should be changed to "another heavy masonry object secured into the large masonry construct." Yeah, that rolls right off the tongue.)

Since April 9th (my "official" hire date), I now have a day job. Actually, it's an every-other-day job. Or a two-days-in-a-row-off-then-unmercifully-early-Sunday-morning job. Or something like that. Anyway, it's a job. Part-time. Much effort for minimum wage.  

Lest I convey the wrong image, it's also a whole ball of mercy wrapped up in a red shirt and a pair of hopefully comfortable and supportive shoes. (I haven't quite dialed that last bit in yet, but am getting close to figuring out what is needed.) It teaches me stuff, it allows me to get out there and shine some light, and it helps me learn the new things my new body and life can do. 

It's six to eight thousand steps, between one and two miles a day, being on my feet for hours at a time, learning to deal with machines and processes and forms and procedures and time clocks and rules and conduct and uniforms and expected behavior and expected output and a whole lot of other stuff that makes me feel like I just got hit by a bus. 

Steve the Mental Hamster is having a field day. I, on the other hand, have been curled up in a fetal position, sobbing into my pillow, "Dear Father, what have I done?"

Ok, that was a little overdone. And overdramatic. And over easy. Yum. Eggs. 

At this point, I hear a great chorus of witnesses crying out, "Suck it up, wimp boy! Welcome to the REAL world, Mr. Sit-My-Flabby-Hiney-At-Biggby-And-Spend-The-Day-Writing-Meaningless-Prattle-That-Nobody-Ever-Reads-Anyway! Join the rest of us, who actually WORK for a living! Stuff a sock in it, toughen up Buttercup, and get over it! Get to WORK!" 

Don't have to. Today is a day off. Nyah nyah nyah! I are not immature! *phbbbbt!* 

Perhaps I are after all. 

So, one might rightly ask,  why I have I been sounding like a spoiled teenager lately? 

"Dude, I have to be there on time, and I have to like, work all day, and -get this- I have to punch in to like, take a break, and I only get a couple of those, and like, I have to punch out to eat lunch, and then I have to like, punch in a half hour later, and I have to like, punch in no later than two minutes after I'm supposed to be there or else I'm marked down for being late, and like, dude, it's just not fair!"  

I sound like a sixteen year old, not a fifty-something. (And if you know some sixteen year-olds and take much umbrage to that last bit, I do apologize. I too know some fine folks of that age range, any of whom are wiser than me by leaps and bounds. Comedy is sometimes stereotypical. Although, you do have to ask yourself about the seeds of truth that blossom into a witty stereotype. Not a hurtful, hateful stereotype - nobody need ask themselves anything about those, except why the heck do I even know stuff like that? Just the witty, tongue-in-cheek kind. Yeah, those ones.) 

I sound like someone who's never had a job before, or at least not a real job with real requirements and real consequences. 

NEWS FLASH: I haven't. At least, not in this present life. 


Yeah, it was bugging me too. After all, I am a fifty-something. Actually, I'm fifty-two going on fifty-three. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I've earned most if not all of these silver hairs on my head through experience, physical changes or mental adjustments, and they're ok with me.

(They'd be more ok with me if they'd all make up their mind to go one color, and quit mixing it up. I'd vote for all white - I'd love to take my place among the white-haired wise of 1st Cov. Or at least among the white-haired part.)

But this chapter in my life is confusing me. And leaving me a little impatient with myself. And making me wonder just what sort of wussy boy I really am. It's like I've flipped back to high school and don't have many more years than that on my clock. 

That sounds disturbingly familiar. Hold on - let me check the underused, over-hyped, non-award-winning archives of that beloved piece of electronic wasting of space, "The Whistler's Wonderings." Steve, would you spin up the archive wheel, please? 


What if I give you a Yummy Chewy Crunchy Tasty Hamster Bite?

Yeah - mental hamsters don't eat. I know that. Work with me here, 'k? Thanks.

("The Whistler's Wonderings" is exclusively powered by the awesome computational ability of the Commodore 64 - the personal computing wave of the future. Hamster-powered mainframe optional.) 

Alright, let's see... Hmmm... I know it's here someplace... 

Ah HAH! I knew this sounded familiar. 

"When coming out of addiction, one sometimes goes back mentally to the place where they entered into addiction, and often must learn or re-learn lessons that they missed while they were addicted." (to paraphrase my counselor, She Who Knows Stuff)

Oh - that one again. Poop. 

I hates that one.  

Perhaps 'hates' is too strong of a word. Perhaps 'strongly dislikes' would be better. Perhaps not. 

Perhaps I'm stalling.  

Yeah, that's it. 

Last time I got to saddle up with this particular lesson, we were thinking I was around toddler age, having to deal with flailing motor control and the demon persistence of the single-digited, insisting that "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!" 

It wasn't pretty. 

We were hoping that I'd moved ahead, perhaps all the way to early college and were beyond some of the drama of my teens.

And again, perhaps I'm stalling. 

Welcome to TeenAgeCal, without the raging hormones and all the joy therein. So, to join me on this little journey, think back to your very first job. Think about the things you had to learn about balancing school, responsibilities at work, and a HUGE social life. About how reasonable expectations seemed like a chain around your ankle, how requirements for dress and behavior were an affront to your individual expression, and finding acceptable corners to cut were your major field of study. 

I know - that's awash in stereotypes, unfair to the teens of this day and age, and certainly not how it was when you were that age. You were a fine, upstanding young employee, maintained a great GPA, were elected to various important positions in student government, involved in sports, the arts, still had time to make award-winning projects in shop class, and spoke not only at your high school commencement, but at your rival school's as well, so profound were your oratorical gifts. 

You are dead to me. Just sayin'. 

But mixed into all my pondering and wondering and whining about my new life circumstance is one little truth that changes and balances it all: 

This IS my first rodeo.

I didn't have a job in high school, except for a short stint at a photography studio my senior year, hardly enough to effect a change in either work ethic or life behavior. (The correct usage of "effect" there courtesy of She Who Must Proof, correcting Cal's many spelling and grammar errors since 1982.)



*actually, since we started dating in the fall of 1981, it would actually be "since September, 1981." It could be August, 1981, but I'll allow a month of leeway here.* 

Thanks, really.

*You're welcome. :-D*

(Those of you who know She Who Must Proof well know that I'm really not stretching things too far to paint that picture... In fact, if you were to ask her, she'd probably 'fess up to it. Go ahead - ask her if when she read the words, "Since 1982," she then started doing the mental computations to make sure that was accurate. Really - go ahead - I'll wait. 




To quote Master Yoda, "Told you, I did.")

Carrying on...

I didn't have a job in college, because my Mom wanted college to be my only occupation and gave me the support to not have to work - support that I squandered, wasted, and generally used to continue my lazier than thou lifestyle and mindset... 5 years, no degree, no actual career path or aspirations, majoring in performance on an instrument that I really despise the solo literature for, and enough issues to fill a few trucks. 

And I never thanked her enough for her sacrifice, nor did I apologize for wasting it. I have since - but it came, as does so much in our lives, too late.

- Grace is a gift from God. Regret is a tool of Sightblinder. Yes, I do know, apply, and show gratitude for that life-giving lesson. -

I "fell into" work in radio, and kept a toe in it for years, though if I were to apply now, I doubt I'd be hired - I just don't possess a "radio voice." God brought me into it full-time, kept me there just long enough to get onto the edge of the cliff, and kicked me off of it in 2006 to begin the long fall into my ReBirth. 

(And for those of you protesting that crack about not having a "radio voice," I'm just speaking truth as someone who has long experience in the industry. My voice worked for kids' radio, and it works well as an overnight voice on WCSG, but it's not a drive-time, mainstream kind of voice. It's truth, not a slam or self-esteem issue. For the record, it kicks tushy as a storyteller's voice... although one kiddo in Children's Church accuses me of "screaming." Heaven help him if I ever do actually *scream* - his head will probably implode.)

So, no - I've never learned the whole thing of balancing work responsibilities, home responsibilities, social life (fortunately, a fifty-something tends to have less need of a social life than a teen, although Vicki and I are waiting for more of our friends to become empty nesters so we can hang out with them and catch up on life, while watching the slide shows of their grandchildren cycle through on their computers), and creative pursuits. I'm a little ("lot") clueless about the demands that a job, even a part-time one, makes on one's mind and body. And I'm very, very inexperienced at how to walk gracefully from one role to another, one responsibility to another, or from activity (like work or chores) into inactivity without interpreting "inactivity" as "hibernation mode." I don't yet know how to keep 'down time' from becoming 'veg mode.'

I'm learning all those lessons that most of you learned many, many years ago. After all, Tabula Rasa DOES mean "blank slate." Mine is starting to have some stuff written on it, but there's still a LOT of blank space waiting to be filled. And lessons still lurk out there, waiting to be learned. Shouldn't catch me off-guard by now, but like the dumb sheep I am, they do. 

The important thing, which has been slow to come as well, is this: I've learned the necessity, the joy, the wondrous freedom of extending grace to myself. In other words, I know how to "give myself a little slack."

Not to be confused with "letting myself be a slacker," just so's we're clear.

Once I finally realize that this isn't a flaw, a weakness, a place where I'm just being spoiled, stubborn, lazy, or any other manifestation of EvilCal, then I can apply the grace lesson and sit back for the ride. I can go into learning mode, ease up on my personal expectations, and open up the space needed to insert some new programming into life 2.0.

As one of my earlier posts states, "I did it before, I can do it again." Which, by the way, is why there even IS an archive for TW'sW's - It's less of a blog or status update, and more of a reference library for the care and maintenance of Cal's ReBirth.

So, open up the space, apply the grace lesson, and mindfully approach the changes, the challenges and the stresses. Step away from being frustrated, and instead look for accommodation - moving gracefully from step to step, from change to change, from challenge to challenge. Along the way, keep the essentials that must not be lost, pick up the important things that have been dropped, set them all into their proper place and order, and continue to move. See the new things added for what they are - a gift, a provision, an opportunity, an assignment. 

Go where God has made it very, very plain that you are to go, do what God has made it very, very plain that you are to do, and become who God has intended from the beginning you should be. 

After all, He's always gone before you, He always walks beside you, and He always knows the steps ahead of you - He prepared them for you. His timing is perfect, His faithfulness is eternal, and He loves His kids. At no time are you ever out of His reach or His care. 

Nothing catches Him by surprise, yet we delight Him when we reflect His light. He smiles when we praise Him with everything and anything we have and are. And we have the ability and privilege to give Him glory with anything and everything we do.

Alright, I'm putting on my hopefully comfortable and supportive shoes, my black pants and red shirt. I'm aware that I have exactly the number of seconds, minutes, hours, and days that He knows I need to be and do what He has planned for me. I can gracefully move from place to place and from job to pursuit to rest to fun because my Dad made me flexible like that. I can navigate the changes and the stresses because my Father goes ahead, holding up the light, illuminating the path. And I don't have to be afraid, because He's right beside me.

And He loves His kids. Even in their terrible teens.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cal's Work Manifesto: It's All About Me

So, as a newly employed person, I'm a little giddy. Forgive me. I'm working part-time, I'm working at a local retail location, and, although this risks being redundant, I'm WORKING!

So giddy is me.

All souls jaded and weary in the work world are sighing, muttering "newbie" under their breath, and just waiting for the day that I sob over my keyboard, "I HATE my job! I HATE my life! I HATE reality TV!"

Oh weary and jaded souls, don't hold your breath waiting for that declaration... except for the bit about reality TV, that is. That one's true, and remains one of the most compelling reasons that we use our television only for DVDs, Netflix, and as a 46" monitor for the MacBook. (Which totally rocks, for the record.)

And I know - one can see miles and miles of reality TV on Netflix, so really aren't I being more than a little inconsistent? Yes I am - I never promised to be consistent, just sincere.

And I sincerely mean that.

I've been through new employee orientation, I've spent my first four hours doing on-line training, learning stuff about hazardous chemicals and cleaning up biohazards, about lifting with my knees and not with my back, and about appropriate ways to interact with customers, especially those who perhaps have had an item or two accidentally fall into their personal possession in a, shall we say, "pre-paid" condition.

I've learned about treating my fellow team members with respect, smiling, calling them by name when I can scope out their name tags, and generally annoying the heck out of old jaded souls weary with the daily load of the ol' grindstone.

In short, I spend the day working and having fun at the same time, which is good for the team, great for the customer, and excellent for the company.

I dig it.

I wear a Red Shirt and I cover a lot of ground, to the tune of thousands of steps a day in hopefully sensible footwear. I get to crawl under checkout lanes sometimes and find out just what kind of stuff you, the shopping public, deposit under there.

(You ought to be ashamed, by the way. Or at least a little embarrassed.)

I scan stuff, I fix stuff, I check the prices you pay for stuff, I print or re-print some of the signs that tell you the prices you can expect to pay for stuff, I make sure that you can pay for your newly acquired stuff, and that you get a little piece of paper that tells you what you paid for your new stuff, in case you discover that you don't want your stuff to be your stuff anymore and instead want it to become "our" stuff again.

And though I don't directly work in any department you can walk through, if you ask me a question about the location of stuff you're looking for, I'll stop working on the stuff I'm working on and try to help you find the stuff you're looking for, or at least call someone who knows where that stuff is. Because, after all, I'm wearing a Red Shirt, so you can easily mistake me for someone who actually knows stuff about the stuff you're interested in.

And I really, really do like it.

Now, for those of you waiting for the other shoe to drop, the grind to start grinding, and the butt to starting dragging, I present a little something that I've been thinking through the last day or so, something which gives me a better than average chance to say, "It ain't gonna happen. The shoe shall not drop, the grind shall not grind, and my butt has dropped about as far as it's gonna drop, thanks very much."

Presenting Cal's Work Manifesto:

It's All About Me.

Armed guards are now preparing to divest me of my official Red Shirts, snap my name tag in two, and cast me into the "hole in the wall," to be compacted along with the other trash.

Hold on there, Sarge - lemme 'splain...

My Work Manifesto does not conflict with core values, expectations, or any other things covered either in my employee handbook or any of the courses I've now completed. It isn't about my behavior toward team members, customers, or supervisors. (Truthfully, most if not all of my supervisors could whip my sad hiney with one price scanner tied behind their backs, so I'm not going to be all up in their grills, if you're pickin' up what I'm layin' down.)

(And if you ARE pickin' up what I'm layin' down, could you be givin' it back to me? 'Cause I have NO idea what I'm talkin' about.)

My Work Manifesto is all about internals. It's about the thoughts and attitudes that shape behavior. It's the mindful steps that are the precursor to what happens in any given day.

It's All About Me.

Here's an addendum in the "It always seems to work this way so why does it surprise me?" file...

It's now been a week and a half since I wrote everything that precedes the sentence in bold above. And I'll admit - this week and a half has challenged my resolve, questioned my sanity, and kicked my butt six or seven thousand steps at a time. And yes, I do wear a pedometer to work, so that's a fairly accurate number. Sort of.

This is why I write - to observe, sort things through, figure stuff out, and make note of how I intend to go on from here. My beloved always knows when the time has come to send me off to Biggby with my iPad and keyboard, to go sort through the cupboard and shovel out a few loads of Mental Hamster droppings. (None of which I found under a checkout lane, for the record.)


I read these words I wrote within the first two days of my new gig, and I do a system check, looking at the doubts that I've allowed to grow louder, the weariness that I've allowed to cover my eyes, and the overwhelming sense that I have no clue how to do my new job and I'm not making any progress toward learning how.

And I realize that I forgot my manifesto: It's All About Me.

It's not about my feelings of inadequacy; it's not about the thousands of steps through the store; it's not about leg or foot pain, or figuring out the proper shoes to wear; it's not about the workload, the number of tasks or all the procedures and details that go along with them...

It's All About Me.

It's like what I always say when someone is considering the surgery that saved my life (or someone's friend or family member is wishing someone would consider the surgery) - you have to see it as a gift, one of the greatest you could ever be given. Sometimes, the surgery is considered the "last resort," the thing you try when all else has failed, the most drastic measure you can take. You've failed at everything else, so you have no choice left but this.

And if you come to it with that frame of mind, then living your new life will become very, very difficult. All the adaptations and restrictions you'll have to live with the rest of your life will hang like millstones around your neck, and you'll sink under the weight of them. With your head in that place, your heart will follow and seeing the possibilities of your new life will become very difficult.

IF, though, you see this as a wonderful gift, then everything you have to do to live this new life is a part of a great adventure. The restrictions, the maintenance, the (seemingly endless) supplements and such are simply part of the routine, no big deal, just how life is lived.

(For example, as I'm writing this, I just took two vitamin A capsules, a vitamin D tablet, chomped down a multi-vitamin of which I chomp three a day - and I must say, chewable vitamins aren't nearly as tasty as they're made out to be on the ads - and following that all up by chomping two calcium chews, of which I chomp six a day.)

(And, praise Jesu, the chews ARE as tasty as they're made out to be. Yum.)

See the connection? How I walk through my new life, gracefully or resentfully, joyfully or grudgingly, depends on where my head is at.

It's All About Me.

So we take the short walk of a few thousand steps from here to work, and connect the dots...

(My little bitty friend DG thinks I'm addicted to ellipses... I've thought about it a bit... and considered it... and I don't really know what I think about that... Hmmm... but I am ok with connecting the dots...)

*excuse me while I go give Steve the Mental Hamster's wheel a swift kick to see if I can get it back on track...*


*that's better...*

If I see my new gig as the last resort, the only thing I can do, putting in my time for minimum wage, or any other view that tries to justify a major attitude and minimum effort, then every day with all the steps and tasks becomes another millstone around my neck, grinding me down into a mundane work existence.


If I see my new gig as what it is - a gift, then all the things that go along with it are just part of the great adventure my Father has in store for me. He made it very, very clear that at this time, this is where I'm supposed to be. Regardless of if I'm in school, being taught some new lessons, or if I've been deployed to be His hands and feet in this place, I'm here because He's asked me to be here. He's invited me on the adventure, so now I get to ride along.

When I walk through the door, in my Red Shirt, name tag hanging gracefully from my collar, attired in my black pants and hopefully sensible footwear, I'm in for a lot of hurt. I'm going to be pulled in many directions, some of which involve places that are enough to make Mike Rowe say, "thanks, I'll pass." I'll be asked to do things that I have no clue how to accomplish, people will probably roll their eyes at the newbie (internally, at least), and wish a "real" team member was around to handle their issue.

Yup, I know all this. But just because I "know" it doesn't mean that's how things actually are...

- The hurt comes from a 52-year-old body complete with abused and arthritic legs that carried way too much weight for way too many years.

- The pulling in many directions comes from the nature of my job - I go fix stuff, care for stuff, maintain stuff. The stuff doesn't take a number or make an appointment - it goes woolly when and where it wants to, laughing and living the life of the carefree (to steal part of a line from Dave Barry). When it goes south, I go north to try and shove it east into happily-ever-after land.

- The cluelessness comes from the simple fact that I've been doing this less than two weeks.

- And the attitude of my co-workers comes pretty much from my own head and imagination. Folks are really kind and patient with the newbie, especially if it's obvious that I'm trying to figure it out, albeit at a snail's pace. So were we all when first learning stuff.

See the common thread? Good - so do I.

It's All About Me.

MY attitude. MY perception. MY extension of grace to others. MY acceptance of grace extended to me. MY joy at getting to do all kinds of stuff wrapped up in one job, thus giving the ADD side of me all kinds of happy feelings. MY thanksgiving at having a way to bring some resources into our household.

And MY acceptance of and firm belief in this truth:

Everything we do is (or should be) a way to give glory to God - even when crawling around underneath a checkout lane, finding the layers of ancient civilizations of shoppers who left all sorts of grody things behind.

(Did I mention that you ought to be ashamed? Or at least embarrassed? I did? Alrighty then.)

I don't HAVE to go to work - I GET to go to work.

I don't HAVE to do what my employer says - I GET to give them my best effort and attention.

I don't HAVE to be all smiling and friendly to customers - I GET to do my part to make this day a little brighter and a bit more pleasant for our guests.

I don't HAVE to be civil to my co-workers - I GET to be a positive influence in their lives, to help make their walk a little easier.

I don't HAVE to drag my sagging hiney off to punch a clock, do my job, shuffle through my shift, or watch the time drag by - I GET to go to the store, be there on time, make my work today better than the day before, interact with all kinds of people, care for the resources of my employer, respond to the trust they've placed in me, give my best efforts, make my legs stronger with a few thousand steps...

And shine like a star in the universe, living out the words of truth by the way I do my stuff. No need to talk about the faith that drives me to do it - I shine brightest when I live and move and have my being in Him.

Like I said, it's all about me.

Actually, it's all about me remembering that it's all about Him.

"Thanks for coming to ______ today," says the smiling man in the bright Red Shirt, black pants and hopefully sensible (and comfortable) shoes. "How can I help you?"

After all, It's All About Me.